Since January I have been following a whole food nutrition program called Lean With Amanda. I’ve had incredible results shedding extra pounds and body fat (particularly in the belly and hips) and so have my girlfriends who have tried it too. Along the way, I’ve learned A LOT about nutrition that I wish someone had taught me long ago. This post is all about my experience with the program.
I’m not one for fad diets so when a girlfriend mentioned that I should try an intermittent fasting program called Lean With Amanda I wasn’t down with it. Paleo, Keto, Whole 30 — there are enough diets out there and, in my mind, intermittent fasting was just a trendy younger sister to those diets. I was content to continue with the healthy eating and exercise regimen that had served me well so far.
Then October came and so did the boot on my foot, my subsequent surgery, and the mandatory time off exercise.
The pounds had already been creeping up on me. After I turned 45 my usual diet and exercise regimen wasn’t as effective anymore. I chalked it up to hormones and a natural consequence of aging so there was no sense in getting down about it. I convinced myself that when we get older we put on pounds in our bellies and it’s okay. And it is. But I didn’t like it. By December I was feeling desperate. I don’t own a scale but judging from the way my jeans were fitting (or not fitting) I knew I wanted to try something to shed the extra. I like my clothes too much to just give up on them and move up a size.
Meanwhile I saw that friend again. She looked great. Lean. Face glow. I complemented her and asked what she was doing. She said she had just finished a round of Lean With Amanda. My previous skepticism made way for optimism. Sign me up!
Why Try Lean With Amanda?
Before I get into the details of my experience, I want you to know that Lean With Amanda is more than just a dieting strategy. It is a seven-week nutrition education program suitable for any adult man or woman. Amanda herself is a clinically trained dietitian with 20 years of experience in a hospital setting. Following the basic tenets of the program caused me to make a lot of positive lifestyle changes like meal prepping on the weekends, nutrient tracking, and (shocker!) eating carbs again!
At its heart, Lean With Amanda is a gluten and dairy-free whole food nutrition program using an intermittent fasting protocol that incorporates advanced nutritional techniques like carb cycling and extended fasting. Believe me, if you had asked me in December if I would fast for 24 hours I would of said HELL NO!! I like to eat three square meals a day. Daily exercise is a component of the program but any kind of movement is the goal. Following the diet is number one, exercise is secondary. This was right in the strike zone for a girl with a foot in a boot.
There are different variations of intermittent fasting but the most popular format is to consume all of your food in an 8 hour window and fast for a 16 hour period that gives your digestive system a chance to rest. For me, that looks mostly like eating from 11:30a.m. to 7:30p.m. on a daily basis. There is some fluctuation, sometimes I finish dinner earlier, sometimes later but for the most part that’s the timeframe I stick to. This essentially breaks down to eating two meals (lunch and dinner) and a snack each day.
Ironically, I did not begin eating breakfast until my 30s. I taught myself to eat breakfast in my 30s because I wanted to make healthy lifestyle changes and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. More and more studies are showing that perhaps that is not the case. Eating my first meal at 11:30 was a bit of an adjustment at first because after a decade of eating breakfast my body was anticipating it, but the transition was easy enough. It’s always been my natural inclination.
When I am fasting, I am drinking water with electrolytes or unsweetened tea. I’m not a coffee drinker but black coffee and a concoction called “bulletproof coffee” is acceptable during the fast. Electrolyte water is the key to fasting success! I drank a lot of plain water before I started the program but I learned that you need electrolytes to replenish minerals in the body and keep the hangry away. When we say our blood sugar is low and we feel headachey and foggy when we don’t eat — that’s really the product of being low in sodium, potassium, and magnesium. When you drink electrolyte water you are preventing that brain fog feeling. An added benefit to the fast is that your water intake increases!
The first major change I made to be successful with intermittent fasting was getting in the habit of prepping all of our weekly meals on the weekend. Before starting Lean I had gotten into the bad habit of routinely eating dinner after 8 p.m. I wasn’t thinking about dinner until it was time to actually be eating it. If I wanted to eat all of my meals in an eight hour window I had to finish dinner earlier and that meant doing some advance planning. An added bonus to meal prepping is that it results in less waste of groceries. When you shop intentionally and with a plan you are not buying extra produce that doesn’t get used before it goes bad in the produce drawer!
Second, I had to get accustomed to logging all of my food in an app called “My Fitness Pal”. I’ve food logged before but never in a formal way that gave me a nutritional breakdown of what I was eating. Amanda begins the program by telling you the parameters to set in the app so you have personalized calorie and macronutrient targets. Nightly you submit a screenshot of the nutrients tab from the app and a member of her team gives guidance about how you are doing. I would say this is mostly a cheerleading exercise but it is helpful when you realize what you think might be a really bad day is not as bad as you thought. Having someone cheer you along is a nice little perk. I’ll admit, by the end of the seven weeks food logging was tedious. But, interestingly, after I finished my seven week session of Lean I have kept up with logging for my own benefit because I like the accountability it provides.
The Lean program implements carb cycling to confuse your body’s metabolic process — when you switch up what you are doing you aren’t giving your body a chance to adapt. There are low carb days on two consecutive days of the week and a third earlier in the week. On a low carb day consumption stays under 50 net carbs. The other days are what is referred to as regular carb days. On a regular carb day you aim to eat a minimum of 100 carbs. The idea is that you consume carbs from whole foods (fruits and vegetables) and complex carbohydrates like rice, quinoa, beans, etc to achieve your carbohydrate goals. Carb cycling is not at all confusing once you understand the concept of what a low carb and regular carb day looks like. Amanda provides a weekly calendar so you know just what your goal is for the day and her daily morning message serves as a reminder.
Adjusting to eating carbs was a major lifestyle change for me — for the better! For the last decade I had made carbs largely off-limits. I hadn’t realized how many carbohydrate rich foods I had cut out of my diet. The challenge to get to 100 was so freeing. Foods that I had previously shunned were fair game. I began making gluten and dairy-free muffins that I could incorporate into my diet as an afternoon snack and boost my carb count. Accepting that eating carbs is not inherently bad for you — as long as they are the right kind — was a positive outcome of doing the Lean program.
Extended fasting is probably the most controversial aspect of this program and a topic that deserves its own blog post. The program does not require it but I challenged myself to give it a try. I worked my way up incrementally to a once a week 24 hour fast. On my first try I made it 21 hours, the next time I made it 24. The idea is that when you fast for an extended period of time your body gets to a stage called autophagy. In autophagy your body begins to burn fat cells for fuel. Damaged cellular matter is the first to go. When you put your body in a state of autophagy you are essentially causing it to cleanse itself of toxins. Many people think of it as a reboot — a deep cleaning of your cells. Benefits include a clearer state of mind, alertness, and high energy. I can say I felt all of those things! Extended fasting taught me that we really don’t need as much food as we think. Water (and particularly electrolyte water) can be everything you need to function during an extended fast.
Remember when I said my foot was in a boot? For about half of the duration of the program I was very limited in my movement. Nevertheless, I lost 5 pounds in seven weeks but more significantly I dropped TWO INCHES from my hips and ONE INCH from my waist. Those numbers are huge! I’m relatively slim but my weight was accumulating in typical problem areas for women, the hips and waist. When you fast, your body is using your fat for fuel so you will see a huge difference in your fat storage zones.
If I haven’t convinced you of the benefits of this program, see for yourself by trying it out. If you follow the principles YOU WILL SEE RESULTS. And you will experience a positive lifestyle change. Improved mood, higher quality sleep, and increased energy!
You can sign up for Lean With Amanda here. Use code SDD331 for a discount off your your session.
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